Will the newest Walmart c-store concept be the one that sticks?
News of Amazon Go has been reverberating around both the tech and convenience store worlds in recent weeks. But another major player is making a big, albeit more conventional, new move into c-stores. Walmart has been piloting a new c-store concept in two cities.
The chain has opened locations called Walmart Pickup and Fuel in Huntsville, AL and Thornton, CO, according to Convenience Store Decisions. And while the concept’s branding make it sound more like a traditional truck stop than the futuristic Amazon Go, Walmart’s new store is not without an omnichannel bent. Walmart Pickup and Fuel locations allow customers who are shopping for groceries online to pick up their orders the same day at each location. Groceries are bagged at an adjacent Walmart Supercenter and loaded into the customer’s car at the Pickup and Fuel location. This is in addition to the standard grab-and-go c-store offerings.
Walmart’s latest attempt at cracking the c-store market comes in the wake of a recent c-store letdown. Beginning in 2011, Walmart began piloting its Walmart Express c-store concept. In 2016, the retailer announced the closing of 154 stores including 102 Walmart Express locations, effectively killing the concept.
Criticisms of the Walmart Express concept were numerous, as reported earlier this year on RetailWire. Some noted it having a product selection that catered to a traditional suburban Walmart audience rather than an urban one. Others suggested its supply chain was not suitable for a concept the size of a c-store.
Walmart is not the only big box chain to pilot smaller concepts recently. Target, for instance, has rolled out small format stores throughout New York City and New Jersey with more localized assortments meant to cater specifically to urban shoppers. Lowe’s Hardware launched two high-tech, small format stores in Manhattan geared towards urban home improvement needs.
It’s not clear whether Walmart will attempt to use Pickup and Fuel to court urban audiences the way others have. After all, the concept has “Fuel” in its name, which suggests this Walmart c-store incarnation is not targeted at urbanites, many of whom tend to use public transportation.
- Walmart Tests New C-Store – Convenience Store Decisions
- Walmart shutters Express – RetailWire
- Will You Even Recognize Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in the Future? – The Motley Fool
- Will Target take NYC by going small and flexible? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can Walmart succeed in breaking into the c-store market with Walmart Pickup and Fuel? Will the way this concept is structured remedy the problems that led to the closure of its previous attempts in the c-store space?